Kelkoo Travel can find its way again – Duncan Parry

When Yahoo! bought leading price comparison site, Kelkoo, in 2004 it made perfect sense, adding yet another string to the search engine’s bow.

However like other acquisitions Yahoo! has made, Kelkoo didn’t grow or innovate signifiantly – it felt sometimes like a European child forgotten by its big American brother. 

It’s an interesting choice by Yahoo! to sell now to UK investment company Jamplant, especially given Microsoft’s decision to buy another comparison site, Ciao, in August last year.

Even with consumers likely to start cutting back on holidays during the economic downturn, comparison sites look set to see an increase in traffic as people look to get value for money for their purchases.

The sale could have been motivated by any number of factors, but two in particular carry most currency.  Perhaps Kelkoo’s management thought they could achieve more outside the Yahoo! umbrella?

And, secondly, did Yahoo! see this as an opportunity to generate cash, lower their European cost and cut loose a subsidiary with discontented senior staff?

The willingness of Kelkoo’s management to embrace the opportunity to strike out alone, despite the current economic climate, is a demonstration of their belief in their business and the comparison market – now, more than ever, consumers want to compare and save.
With the new flexibility independence from a large parent brings, Kelkoo has the opportunity here to improve and invigorate its offering quickly.

What they’ll lose in terms of search data, they will surely make up with an understanding of what consumers are looking for in a travel comparison service.

As people look for more short breaks to save money, Kelkoo will need to provide a market-leading offering which caters for both UK and international destinations.

A broadening local map of destinations would generate more inventory for advertisers.
Yahoo! must now wonder what other acquired management teams are willing to leave in order to free up cash for other purposes or reduce overheads.

Kelkoo was probably unique – no US footprint and a management team with a strong belief in their product and a desire to break free. But don’t discount further surprises from Yahoo! and its new CEO in the coming months.

Duncan Parry is co-founder of Steak Media

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